China must restore justice by overturning unjust verdict at second trial of imprisoned Tibetan nomad

Thursday, 23 April 2020

London, UK: The Chinese government must right a flagrant injustice next week by granting a free and fair second trial for imprisoned Tibetan nomad and community leader A-Nya Sengdra [1] . Sources in Tibet have confirmed that his appeal against his seven-year prison sentence will take place on Monday 27 April. [2]  

A-Nya Sengdra has campaigned against government corruption and environmental destruction caused by illegal mining activities and endangered animal poaching. He was sentenced on 6 December 2019 [3] on accusations of hosting two WeChat groups with names that included works like “anti-corruption”, “environmental protection’’ and “people’s petitions”.  In recent weeks, amidst the coronavirus outbreak, further crackdowns on Tibetans using WeChat have been reported, including the detention of at least three individuals. [4]

“A-Nya’s activities are essential actions in these times of acute environment crisis - instead of being criminalized he should be celebrated as a local hero,” said Lobsang Yangtso from International Tibet Network. “Activists around the world are working to protect the environment and ensure that they land that they live on will be fit for future generations. Living under China’s occupation has meant A-Nya’s environmental protection work has led to him being classed as a criminal rather than an environment justice hero.”

John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager at Free Tibet, said “Tibet under Chinese Communist Party rule is home to countless injustices, from environmental devastation to abuses of power by local authorities. In trying to challenge these injustices, A-Nya Sengdra became victim of one himself - a groundless arrest, over a year in detention and a sham trial. This appeal is a critical opportunity to right this wrong. If the court is in any way serious about examining this case, it should reverse A-Nya’s prison sentence and allow him to resume his community work without fear of arrest or harassment.”

A-Nya was sentenced on charges of “gathering people to disturb public order” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”; charges frequently used by Chinese authorities to silence Tibetan community activists and environment defenders. The governments of the US, UK, Canada and Germany are among those that have been alerted about the second trial.

“The Chinese government has a dangerous habit of manipulating their own laws in order to criminalise Tibetans in Tibet,” Pema Doma, Campaigns Director, Students for a Free Tibet “Since 2018, Chinese authorities have been issuing regulations that can get Tibetans arrested en masse and under false charges. Nomad and community leader A-Nya Sengdra is the victim of a crackdown that has seen over 400 Tibetans convicted last year, despite no evidence being presented that they committed a crime; further evidence that being a Tibetan in the People’s Republic of China today is to be a threat to state security.”

 A-Nya Sengdra’s arrest and conviction fits a wider pattern of harassment of Tibetan activists and environmental defenders, which has seen hundreds of arrests. Starting in February 2018, provincial and regional authorities across Tibet have overseen a crackdown against what the CCP calls “underworld forces” and “criminal gangs”. Public notifications, appealing for help from the public, have made it clear that the definition of criminal gangs includes Tibetans who organise protests to protect the environment, critics of local or national government authorities and Tibetans trying to preserve Tibet’s language and customs.

After his arrest, on 4 September 2018, A-Nya was beaten in detention and held for 14 months without trial. His brother, Jimtri, was also arrested around the same time (along with a group of nine other Tibetans [4]) and later died from unknown causes in late 2019 after being taken to hospital from his detention centre. He was due to stand trial on the same day as A-Nya Sengdra.

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Contacts:
John Jones, Free Tibet, E: john@freetibet.org, +44 7770681938

Lobsang Yangtso, International Tibet Network [Tibetan, English], +91 88265 07768

Mandie McKeown, International Tibet Network, +44 (0)7748 158 618

Pema Doma, Students for a Free Tibet, [Tibetan, English] T: +1 (617) 792-3606

Notes to Editors:

1. A-Nya Sengdra [Pinyin: Aya Sanza CH: 阿亚桑扎] is a Tibetan nomad and community organizer from Kyangche, Gade County, Golok, Amdo [CH: Jiangqian, Gande, Guoluo, Qinghai].

2. The appeal will be heard by Guoluo Prefecture Intermediate People's Court, located in Dawu Town in Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, eastern Tibet [CH: Gande Maqin County, Guoluo Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province]

3. 6 December 2019: ‘Tibetan Activist handed seven year prison sentence’ https://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/tibetan-activist-handed-seven-year-prison-sentence; 17 January 2020: Jailed Tibetan activist appeals second trial: https://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/jailed-tibetan-activist-appeals-second-trial

4. 19 March 2020: ‘Crackdown on communication in areas of Tibet amidst coronavirus crisis’ https://freetibet.org/news-media/na/crackdown-communications-areas-tibet-amidst-coronavirus-crisis; 3 April 2020: ‘Three Tibetans detained for spreading “rumours” about coronavirus’ https://freetibet.org/news-media/na/three-tibetans-detained-spreading-%E2%80%9Crumours%E2%80%9D-about-coronavirus

5. The eight other Tibetan standing trial on 5 & 6 December 2019 were also given prison sentences. Their names are: Sothor, Asho, Dosang, Wanggyal, Gyaltsen, Abhi, Ugen Tsering, Wanchen and Jimtri, A-Nya Sengdra’s brother.